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eMusic’s new owner TriPlay launches eStories, a new audiobook service

TechCrunch TechCrunch 14/07/2016 Ingrid Lunden

eMusic, the veteran digital music company that was acquired in 2015 by Israeli media startup TriPlay, is expanding its horizons. Today the company is launching eStories, an audiobook service that will offer 80,000 titles at a cost of $11.95 per title to use, plus 33 percent off additional purchases.

The service aims to compete with the likes of Audible, which is owned by Amazon and dominates the market, which is estimated to be at around 55 million users of audiobooks globally today. As a point of comparison, Audible has more titles — 250,000 — but costs $14.95 for one title per month, with a 30 percent discount on further titles (whose price can be higher or lower than $14.95).

eStories is not eMusic’s first foray into audiobooks: the company used to have a smaller offering that went by the prosaic name “eMusic audiobooks”.

The new service is coming by way of a new partnership with Findaway, in which eStories will have titles from major publishers like Hachette Audio, HarperAudio, Macmillan Audio, Penguin Random House Audio, Simon & Schuster Audio. Titles include The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The BFG by Roald Dahl. 

This rebrand also comes ahead of a relaunch of eMusic that will also be coming up soon, the company says.

The move to TriPlay’s ownership has signalled some interesting shifts at the eMusic and its non-music offerings, including the audiobooks service. All of the infrastructure behind eMusic’s services now live on TriPlay’s cloud servers. This is in contrast to the previous model where whatever you purchased on eMusic would be downloaded locally to your device.

This means that the service has, in turn, become much more dynamic: you can now listen across different devices like PC and mobile, and Tamir Koch, CEO of TriPlay and eMusic, says that this will soon extend to more including cars, wearables and TVs. (TriPlay has a relationship with Samsung, and already works with it to put its content on TVs.) In total you can sync up to 10 devices for a single account.

The change in infrastructure also means a shift in the company’s cost base. He claims that both eMusic and eStories are now profitable businesses, although declined to give me any specific numbers. The startup TriPlay, which sources told us acquired eMusic for less than $26 million, has to date raised $16 million from Eastern European oligarch Kenges Rakishev, Fortress Investment Group, and Koch himself.

In terms of the value of eMusic and what TriPlay has acquired, Koch also notes that the company now has more than 70 patents and patent applications. “Most have been issued, and we are very well covered,” he said. And they are not afraid to use them: the company has been embroiled in a patent infringement case against WhatsApp that is still ongoing.

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